Saturday, June 16th, 2018 Alive 17,217 days
Most people donʼt realize that there are other “areas” in the Nevada National Security Site besides Area 51. This railroad engine used to haul nuclear rocket engines around Area 25 before it crashed.
In other news, “nuclear rocket engines” are a thing.
Hereʼs whatʼs on the plaque:
GENERAL ELECTRIC 80-TON, #L-3
In 2006, the Nevada State Railroad Museum acquired this 500 horsepower, 161,000 lb. diesel-electric locomotive from the U.S. Department of Energy. It was built in 1953 by the General Electric Company and initially served at a U.S. Naval facility before being overhauled and relocated to the Nevada Test Site in 1964. There, the locomotive was routinely used to transport nuclear powered rocket engines to various test stations.
The nuclear rocket program began in 1955 when the Atomic Energy Commission and the U.S. Air Force began various thermal reactor studies for the first assembly of a prototype rocket engine. During the 1960s and 70s the U.S. Government constructed several rocket development stations at Area 25 and connected them with their own series of railroad tracks, thus allowing easy movement of the rocket engines from one test station to the next throughout the sprawling site.
The unique name “Jackass and Western” stenciled on the side of the locomotive comes from the geographic location in which Area 25 is situated. Jackass Flats is one of several flats located at the Nevada Test Site, such as Frenchman Flats and Yucca Flats where most of the actual atomic testing took place during the mid to late 20th century.
The Jackass and Western Railroad operated as a charted common carrier until the U.S. Government suspended the nuclear rocket engine program in the mid-1980s at which time the locomotive sat idle and was put into storage.